Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Kirfara Nature

 As a nature guide I find it enjoyable to share a little experience through pictures. I hope you like them. Some were taken through a binocular lens and all were taken with an iPhone 5. My last proper camera was a Nikon F4 in the days of film.  When I grow up I want to use fancy cameras again, but in the mean time this is still a hobby that one can practice even with a smartphone. 

"So, do not look for the soul of Reinhold Rau among the dead - he is not to be found there; rather look for him among living things, whether these are people or tortoises or frogs. Or better still, search for his spirit in some place like the Karoo National Park, when in the cool of the evening, quaggas, which were once thought to be extinct, come to drink at the waterhole - as they were always meant to do"  Butch Hulley. Please see the Quagga Project at if you would like to know more about Quagga and Zebra. 
Oplinophagy - feeding on snakes. This is the Brown snake- eagle with the waxing moon.  " Snake eagles (Genus Circaetus) differ from 'true' eagles by having unfeathered legs with heavy scales, loose feathers on the head giving rounded appearance, and a very upright stance"  Trevor Carnaby - Beat about the bush, Birds. 

 A zulu friend told me they believe the Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii) to be one of the most beautiful antelope of all. The creator "marked" this antelope with two conspicuous white spots between the eyes to celebrate and confirm his beauty. Perhaps the white chevron between the eyes is also useful as it reflects light into the eyes that may improve nocturnal vision, or a cryptic marking that may confuse predators.  

It makes sense that Homo erectus learned to walk upright on elephant pathways. Elephants are experts at creating contour paths that cross the mountain ranges of the continent. 
In the Western Cape, the last wild elephants were seen in the Franschoek valley (previously Elephants valley)  around one hundred and fifty years ago. Elephants are now kept at some safari destinations close to Cape Town where they are fed with invasive species such as black wattle and sleep in an elephant stable. 

Darryl Dell of &Beyond calls this lion the largest wild lioness on the continent. This picture was also shot through a binocular lens limiting the depth of field and blurring the giraffe further down the road. 

In the Caprivi strip elephants and humans live side by side. The Chobe National Park in Botswana on the southern banks of the river by the same name, is home to the largest remaining elephant population in Africa. 

White backed vultures in Phinda Game Reserve. Vultures have anti-bacterial agents in the gut that allow them to digest rotting material. In this way they perform a crucial cleaning service in keeping disease from spreading to other species. 

The falls at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. The locals  call it Musi-oa-tunya that means the smoke that thunders. Visitors call it Victoria Falls, who's Victoria? 

"The high slopes are hard to reach so the environment is fairly undamaged. However, tourism in the Drakensberg is developing, with a variety of hiking trails, hotels and resorts appearing on the slopes. Most of the higher South African parts of the range have been designated as game reserves or wilderness areas. Of these the UKhahlamba / Drakensberg Park was listed by UNESCO in 2000 as a World Heritage site."

It is imperative to protect and conserve nature around us. We must be the voice of the voiceless and show the world what is happening in the environment. Most people do not have the opportunity to travel to areas where nature is protected, so they do not realise the repercussions of our so called "development" and everyday actions. Development is destruction of nature if the impact of our actions is not taken into consideration. In order to prevent destruction (and us humans with it), development must be done in a sustainable manner where all life and ecosystems are considered in decision making. We have to learn to improve our relationships with the other life forms and environments that we share the planet with. Earth does not belong to us, we belong to earth. 

" I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order " John Burroughs.  

Sunday, 02 February 2014

Ugandan Dreams

We set out from Entebbe in our rental RAV. Visiting the Mt. Gorilla Nest at the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) in Kampala to buy permits for Gorilla and Chimp viewing. We knew already the permits were costly, and soon learnt that this authority was serious about protecting natural heritage. We had no idea what a life experience traveling Uganda would turn into.  

Dreamy lake Bunyoni with distant vistas of the Virunga volcanoes. It took a pinch to make sure it was real. Sensory stimulating dramatic landscapes all around Uganda calling for immediate internal reflection. There was no choice but to smell, see, hear, taste, feel and be with totally open senses. We found the tropical Africa we yearned for.

Bwindi was as mystical and secretive as impenetrable. Forests obscuring horizons and international boundaries. The last stand of Gorilla gorilla, and home to the unique Batwa people.  We were relieved to find local authorities and guides serious about the conservation of the forest and its inhabitants. Ruhija and Rushaga were great departure points of exploration.  

On our way north to Kihihi, a winding road through the highest slopes of Bwindi Forest.  We saw Pordocarpus Yellow Wood type trees. I wondered how many primates there were in Africas Primate history, and about all of us today.  

Stark differences await those who leave the forest. We had no choice, the way to Kihihi where the (in hind sight terrible) "modern supermarket" awaited.
But the destination was Ishasha, a southern section of Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our map it grippingly marked in red: "Tree Climbing Lions". Linda has some fixation with cats, so much more huge lions lounging and sleeping in Ficus trees as if they were born in the branches. Little did we know how lucky we would be.

Camping on the banks of the Ishasha river, with hippos andDefassa Waterbuck walking freely around day and night. On the second day of scanning, searching, tracking lions, we get a tip off with details of a certain area (and always look in the fig trees). Arboreal prides often rest in large trees when temperatures soar in the middle of the day.  The lions are as comfy up there as a cat on a couch. We spent five hours with the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha.  

Branch Manager
Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis) Uganda boasts arguably the best birdwatching in Africa. 
Both Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks teem with wildlife. Although the Amin-type slaughter of humans and other animals have left it's mark of destruction and extinction, perhaps tourism can boost the surviving radiating populations and species. If we can for example save the rhino, the veld in Uganda is prime for reintroduction.  

As we drove into Kibale Forest, we spotted a community of Chimps  (Pan Troglodytes).  The next two days we spent in both the wild and habituated primate communities of Kibale.  The most diverse primate communities in the world.  The amount of life changing experiences left us in awe and respect of our relatives.

Touring Uganda is the deep end in the pool of Africa's landscapes. One can depart a mountainous forest and arrive a few hours later in perfect savanna. A myriad of biome definitions can be drawn from incredibly compact natural diversity.
Loxodonta africana  

Timely research taught us the insecurities of Kidepo Valley. And it didn't help much that war had just broken out again in the Sudans to the north. Passing Kitgum, we held our breaths of what we would find. We found the Karamojong. We fell in love with the land of the Karamoja people.   

Kigelia africana, Sausage Tree

Driving in Uganda is notoriously interesting. Get a trustworthy driver and take your time. Distances can be deceiving and one rapidly learns to measure in time rather than distance. TIA, you know.  If you are on a self drive, good luck.  Roads range from footpaths to tarred and new. Public transport "death busses" swoop down tiny roads which they hardly fit on, so pull over and do bird-watching. Boda-bodas are amazing scenic coffins on wheels. Tragically we also encountered a freshly smashed up RAV, and met the naïve survivors the next day. Phew. 

People are super friendly and helpful, and everyone speaks English. Make an attempt to learn some Swahili and Buganda. 

Akorongimoe and Linda, new best friends

Have you heard of a shy stork called Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)? Out in the open, three sightings in two days on the Nile Delta.   Praise the Shoebill. 
Travelling Uganda involves a criss-cross of the Equator. This is at Paraa Ferry in Murchison Falls National Park.

Ankole cattle. We got into trouble for not asking to take pictures. I said: mooo…and sorry. 

Wilderness Camping was at the order of the day. Linda preparing dinner,  and two buffalo guarding the camp sight.  Fruits and vegetables were delicious and abundant.  Nile Delta, Queen Elizabeth National Park. 

The perfect navigator, travel and life companion. Wife, I love you.

After rafting the White Nile and a visit to the Botanical Gardens, it was time for us to depart Entebbe and Uganda. We thought of our families and parents Leon, Moksie, Bessie and André who supported us in our wedding and this travel dream. Our sadness of leaving Uganda slightly waned as we thought of Biko and Clara. Ugandan dreams changed our lives for ever.  

Thursday, 08 November 2012

Guests from Uruguay

Hola, soy Dora Beatriz Maurin, una de las tres turistas Uruguayas, que estuvimos paseando contigo por Cape Town, los primeros días de octubre. Pasamos momentos maravillosos: Tus relatos de la ciudad, y alrededores, nos dieron una idea magnífica de la ciudad y su historia. Los recorridos por las montañas, senderos, y costas, nos enseñaron todo lo maravilloso que tiene tu país.
Es una mezcla exacta de naturaleza, océanos, flores, pájaros, sonidos, colores, y sobre todo gente tan única, amable, y cariñosa...
Fue una experiencia inolvidable, que nos movilizó los sentimientos hasta las lágrimas: como la visita a Robben Island, creo que yo tengo un antes y un después, luego de ese día: como hemos reflexionado sobre el sacrificio de tanta gente.....
Y creo que todo salió EXCELENTE: POR TU PRESENCIA....
Realmente reconocemos tu don de guía, tu cultura, y tu buena disposición para todos los momentos.
Que nadie se pierda tu compañía: Eres de lo mejor de Sudafrica.
Con todo cariño desde Uruguay. Sudamerica, hasta pronto y buena suerte!!!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Peter Jelley reunited with his camera.

Hello Kirsten,
All is well! The camera has found it's way home, thanks to the wonderful people at SAA.
They have gone to a lot of trouble but they made it happen.
It was sent to the Australian manager last week and I had a parcel delivery company pick it up and send it on to me.
It took a bit of time but I am extremely grateful to everybody who offered help, including you.
Hope all is going fine in SA and you my visit Australia some day for the surfing at Bell's beach.
Kind Regards,
Peter Jelley

Wednesday, 03 October 2012

Jan Grobler's take on being down under.

Uhm ja, not quite sure where this is coming from - maybe all the travelling and thinking along the way and being surrounded by people missing home. I'm probably writing this mostly as a note to myself though I thought I'd share it with you...
Over the past year or so in Australia, I've often had conversations with ex-South Africans who are either negative about Australia as they keep comparing it to South Africa (guilty as charged) or people who are negative about South Africa in order to justify their decision to leave South Africa. 
When I first arrived in Autralia, I stayed in Broome for about two months to work on a project. During this time, I had the opportunity to exlore the Ausie Outback, amazing contrasting colours where the red soil meets the turquois ocean, where rough guys sit on the porch outside the Roebuck bar and sheilas serve you drinks in their underwear... Where I met hippies protesting against the project which we worked on, and yet they reminded me of my friends back home..  Later when I moved to Perth, I moved into Blencowe 25 sharing a house with two French girls and a crazy Italian, enough material to write a book about... Appreciating the 'luxury' of not having to lock my door, running around Lake Monger under the moon lit sky, travelled around Margaret River, tasted some of the best wines in the world. Diving at Carnac Island. Flying to Sydney, admiring the beauties on Manly beach and checking out the Sydney Opera House. Hiring a car and driving along the coast towards Melbourne, breathtaking scenery... Spending an awesome few days in Melbourne, pub crawling with South African friends, going to the Melbourne Grand Prix, great times which I'm truly grateful for... 
When I recently went back to SA, I visited the Kruger with my family, went to the Piet Grobler dam - named after my great grandfather who had a vision for nature conservation (yes I'm very proud), travelled to Cape Town, the fairest cape in the world... partied with great friends till the early morning hours 'cause you only live once', and somewhere along the way unexpectedly fell in love.. When I went to Uganda, my appreciation for deepest darkest Africa deepened yet again. With hippos and fish eagles as alarm clock, exchanging corporate boardrooms for village meetings under the 'wisdom tree'... Being reminded that there are people who travel 40km a day to collect water, most common causes of death not being high blood pressure, suicides, car accidents or senseless murders, but people dying because of malaria, old age or croc attacks... Being reminded that elders have a place in society, looking after the children while parents fish, graze lifestock or cultivate their fields. Noticing the complete absence of retirement villages, mental hospitals, or the need to have Virgin Actives. A crazy beautiful (and different) world. The world where I personally feel I can breathe, where I can wear my sandals and pee under a tree, where I can cross the street when there's no car and not have to wait for a light to tell me what to do, where I can make a fire and not have to use gas or find a designated 'barbeque area', where people still hug and smile when they walk past you... 
So where am I going with this? It's just this, you have to make the grass greener where you are, now! Whether the grass is green is very closely linked to your attitude. If you're pesimistic where you are now, you are most likely going to find sometihing to be pesimistic about on the other side... In South Africa, people feel angry and conerned about the situation of crime, the degrading education system, the looming economic recession, and quite rightly so!  But, remember that we have managed to prove the world wrong since the early 90's, where people have been buying canned food, over and over and over again, to the dismay of poor old Spottie who can't stand the taste of baked beans anymore! Malema is an arsehole, but so is Julia Gillard - They Are Politicians, they can't help it! And I also have to tell you, my housemates from France and Italy are not keen to return home as the economic recession has hit them hard and it sounds like the red wine is no longer providing the same vava voom feeling as before...
From the second last paragraph, it's probably clear where my heart lies, which made it all the more difficult at times to make the grass green here. But today when I went for a run on the beach, I was mesmerised by the sunset and felt ashamed for taking this travelling opportunity for granted at times, because I was longing too much for the other side. I've got a couple of decisions lying ahead, but until I make them, I've decided to appreciate this part of the world for what it is and live in the moment. It requires a change of mind and not merely a once off decision and I want to urge you do the same wherever you may be, cause life's too short.
Tomorrow I can die when breaking the law jaywalking... and so can you, but then at least you have lived without having waited for the promises of that one day when you're on the other side...  
Ps... if you have emigrated, the grass is where you are now so make it green or go back... if you plan to emigrate, to Uganda... make the grass green in the meantime... if you plan to travel and explore.. the grass will be green all the way, and if you're content where you are, well  then just read this as a g'day from downunder!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Dear Kirsten,
It was nice to hear from you.  Marie and I had a fantastic holiday in your country and in East Africa, which was made even more enjoyable by your very professional leadership.  Your colleague, Joseph, whilst very different was just as good and I have enclosed a copy of his photo.  Marie and I also spent a week with friends in Knysna after our safari adventures, and I must say we fell in love with the area - certainly could be described as paradise.
In addition to the photo of Joseph, I have enclosed your photo with Marie and me.
Warmest regards, and again, many thanks for a most enjoyable time.  We wish you well.
Graham (& Marie)


morning safara

morning safara

Cape Town's 12 Apostels

Cape Town's 12 Apostels